Investor push for racial diversity on Apple’s board

Resolution proposes recruiting ‘people of color’ for board and management positions

Apple’s shareholders may soon be able to vote on a resolution that would see the tech giant adopt an ‘accelerated recruitment policy’ to increase the racial diversity of its senior management and board members, following the SEC’s approval.

A shareholder proposal submitted on September 23 by Antonio Maldonado, creative director at music company Insignia Entertainment, calls for greater representation for ‘people of color’ in Apple’s corporate board and upper management, particularly ‘Hispanic, African American and Native American’ candidates.

Maldonado, who holds 645 Apple shares, told the Chicago Tribune he decided to submit the proposal after he and his teenage son looked through photos of the tech firm’s leadership and questioned why everyone was white. He told Bloomberg that Apple’s leadership team was a ‘bit too vanilla’, before adding that he wants ‘to nudge it to move a little bit faster’ on diversity.

Apple’s initial response was to tell the SEC it did not need to include the proposal in an upcoming proxy vote as it constituted an attempt to ‘micromanage’ the firm’s recruitment. The company added that though it tries to attract minority hires, it ‘has no power to ensure its recruits will accept offers’.

In a letter dated December 11, the SEC responded that it could not agree with Apple. While the way is clear for the firm to ignore the proposal – both in proxy and at its as-yet unscheduled AGM – the SEC would also be free to respond with an enforcement action.

According to Apple’s diversity website, the percentage of ethnic minority employees in top positions has declined in recent years, with Hispanic, black and Asian representation dropping since 2014. The company’s former global head of diversity, Jeffrey Siminoff, has also recently moved to work at Twitter.

Though shareholders have historically lobbied for more women and non-white candidates to be named on boards, this marks the first specific request for racial or ethnic groups to be hired, reports Bloomberg. It adds that of the 57 diversity resolutions to go to proxy votes since 2000, none has been approved.

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